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Design Filmmaking

Kodak and Yves Béhar Revive the Super 8 Camera

The charm of Super 8 film, according to Yves Béhar, has a lot to do with its texture. “Film is essential and not replaceable with digital, not for all things,” the industrial designer and founder of Fuseproject says. Take Argo’s Tehran U.S. Embassy scenes. Argo editor William Goldenberg said the segments were meant to feel “like you were watching newsreel footage.” Had the scenes been shot with crystal-clear digital footage, instead of the grainy Super 8 film the movie’s editors used, the effect would have been lost.

This year, Béhar partnered with Kodak to bring the Super 8 back, for the first time since 1982, as a film-digital hybrid camera updated for modern filmmakers. A (non-working) prototype is showing this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, and Kodak expects to put the camera on the market in September. It’ll cost between $400 and $750, but Kodak expects the final figure to skew closer to $400.

The new camera marries some old filmmaking functionality—namely, the use of film—with newer technologies essential to making a movie in 2016. For instance, the new Super 8 includes an LCD screen that lets the user watch his footage while capturing it, rather than after the fact. It also has a rechargeable battery, where the old cameras would have relied on electrical sockets.

Those seeing the new camera at CES have been quick to call it “old-school,” but Béhar dismisses the descriptor. “This is not a retro design job,” he says. “I was not interested in being directly inspired in what was done back then. The reason it looks retro is the size and the mechanical restraint of using a [film] cartridge.” As with the three-in-one Zolt charger and the French Le Cube S set-top box, Béhar’s job description with the Super 8 was to fit the necessary technology into as petite a package as possible—and, unlike other tech, the size of Super 8 film doesn’t slim down with the times. Outside of that, Béhar says everything, from the materials (steel and metal) to the “ergonomic” form factors used for attachments like the handle and pistol grip are thoroughly modern. The result is meant to be what Béhar calls “a high-end DSLR camera case, rather than a less robust 1960s-type of product.”

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In a press release Jeff Clarke, Eastman Kodak’s CEO, described the Kodak Super 8 Revival Initiative as an “ecosystem” for film. It’s an apt description: At one end, you have Hollywood heavyweights like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams—both got their starts as teenagers using Super 8 cameras—throwing their weight behind Kodak’s initiative. On the other, you have Kodak’s newly launching service to develop and deliver Super 8 footage to its users, in both film and digital formats. The hope, at Kodak and according to Béhar, is for the new Super 8 to be something of a bridge, not just between film and digital, but between entry-level and professional movie-making.

From Wired

Learn more at Kodak’s official site. Below, a few of the industry’s best filmmakers share their thoughts on why this Super 8 revival is so necessary. (All quotes taken from Kodak’s site.)

Steven Spielberg, writer, director, producer, multiple Academy Award® winner
“When I watch the news, I expect and want it to look like live television. However, I don’t want that in my movies. I want our century-plus medium to keep its filmic look and I like seeing very fine, swimming grain up there on the screen. To me, it’s just more alive and it imbues an image with mystery, so it’s never literal. I love movies that aren’t literally up in my face with images so clear there is nothing left to our imaginations. Had I shot it on a digital camera, the Omaha Beach landings in Saving Private Ryan would have crossed the line for those that found them almost unbearable. Paintings done on a computer and paintings done on canvas require an artist to make us feel something. To be the curser or the brush, that is the question and certainly both can produce remarkable results. But doesn’t the same hold true for the cinematic arts? Digital or celluloid? Vive la difference! Shouldn’t both be made available for an artist to choose?”

J.J. Abrams, writer and director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
“While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film. The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true. With a gorgeous new design, interchangeable lenses and a brilliant scheme for development and delivery of footage, this camera appears to be the perfect bridge between the efficiency of the digital world and the warmth and quality of analog.”

Quentin Tarantino, writer, director, producer, multiple Academy Award® winner
“On film, there’s a special magic on a set when you say ‘action’ and to the point that the take runs until you say ‘cut,’ that’s a sacred time. I’ve always believed in the magic of movies and to me the magic is connected to film. When you’re filming something on film you aren’t recording movement, you’re taking a series of still pictures and when shown at 24 frames per second through a lightbulb, THAT creates the illusion of movement. That illusion is connected to the magic of making movies. The fact that Kodak is giving a new generation of filmmakers the opportunity to shoot on Super 8 is truly an incredible gift.”

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Cinematography Filmmaking Interview

Tarantino on Ultra Panavision

The 65mm workhorse of roadshow films.
Photo courtesy of Roy H. Wagner ASC
Via The American WideScreen Museum

Excerpts from  Bill Desowitz at Thompson on Hollywood.

Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson ASC digs into the technical nitty-gritty of the large-format anamorphic film process that hasn’t been used in nearly 50 years.

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The comeback of motion picture film will literally get its biggest boost yet with the Ultra Panavision 70 release of celluloid defender Quentin Tarantino’s post-Civil War Western “The Hateful Eight.”

Shot on 65mm film with classic Panavision lenses in the widest aspect ratio of 2.76:1, this marks the first anamorphic 70mm theatrical release in nearly 50 years. The two-week roadshow engagement (they’re aiming for 100 theaters with the Cinerama Dome in contention for LA, of course) would be the best holiday gift for cinephiles.

“The Hateful Eight” will also pit three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson (“Hugo,” “The Aviator,” “JFK”) in a shoot-out with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who’s going for a third Oscar in a row for his own frozen wilderness adventure, “The Revenant,” from “Birdman” director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. (Both films are racing to the editorial finish line for a Christmas Day release.)

Richardson proclaimed that Ultra Panavision 70 more than reinforces the notion that film can coexist with digital: it provides such unparalleled scope, resolution and beauty that everyone should be using it. “When we saw Sam Jackson in a closeup — or anyone — it just aided the skin. It’s remarkable. We never used diffusion, the only filters we ever did were outside. It was stunning.”

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The last Ultra Panavision 70 release was “Khartoum” (1966), the biopic with Charlton Heston as British Gen. Charles Gordon. The list also includes “Ben-Hur,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and “The Battle of the Bulge.”

In fact, Panavision took Tarantino into a screening room and surprised him with the chariot race from “Ben-Hur,” starting with the sides at the normal width and then spread out to expose the full frame — and the film nerd was totally hooked on Ultra Panavision 70.

But this all began accidentally: “We went in thinking we were going to shoot standard format for 65mm and one day I was with Gregor Tavenner, my first camera assistant, and Dan Sasaki [Panavision VP of optical engineering] was showing us standard Panavision lenses for 65mm and while looking at them, I slipped behind the curtain and saw this shelf filled with odd-shaped lenses [triangular with prisms]. They were Ultra Panavision lenses,” Richardson said.

Panavision also made a 2,000-foot magazine for the film cameras to accommodate Tarantino’s penchant for long takes.

The team brought a very analogue approach to shooting in Telluride and onstage at LA’s Red Studios, where they lowered the temperature to 30 degrees. They screened dailies in 70mm, with no digital intermediate, and the film is being color-timed photochemically, the old-school way, by FotoKem.

“There’s a great deal of interior landscape available and the actors loved it. Also, I think they enjoyed the visual feast that was given to them in terms of their own faces,” said Richardson, who admitted, though, that throwback photochemical color timing has been frightening.

“I’d become reliant on a digital intermediate for fixing things in post and you can let certain things go. For example, you realize that the backgrounds are blown out but you don’t want to take the time to put a hard gel up. You know you can rescue that with the window and tracking, or if your weather doesn’t quite match, it’s easier to work a look between sunny and overcast.

But not when it came to this gorgeous look. And this is just the beginning, as Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is also reportedly being shot with Ultra Panavision 70 lenses.

Thanks to the Widescreen Museum and In70mm for technical information.

Parts of this story originally appeared in Carolyn Giardina’s article in The Hollywood Reporter from Cine Gear Expo.